‘The West End Library’ project
During my interview back in 1983, the library board said that there were two major issues that they wanted addressed by the new director: The new state funding of public libraries starting in 1986, and the establishment of a “West End Library.”
I accepted those items as my “marching orders” when hired, in addition to the general administrative duties of the library system that had been without any director for more than six months at that time.
I realized that Jefferson, Harrison and Hamilton counties in Ohio all needed to adjust their budgets with the upcoming Public Library Fund, but that was clear in the new law, and it was obvious what needed to be done.
The West End Library issue was far more complex, and I had to become acquainted with the issue quickly to begin to address that issue.
There was a file in the director’s office labeled “West End Library” and I was told that my home that my wife and I purchased was in the “West End,” so I began familiarizing myself with that issue.
Discussion of the West End Library began as early as 1936, as the growth of the area had moved west of the downtown area, but seemed to take on new energy in 1964 when the file was created.
No less than a dozen sites had been reviewed for a West End Library in the 20 years before I arrived on scene, and I noticed a hand-written comment in the file saying, “Be sure the library is accessible from Sunset Blvd. without a left turn and no traffic light.”
A Wintersville library appeared in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, then closed to reopen from 1968-71.
“Be sure there is a window air conditioner in the rental space” was another hand-written note in the file.
In the 1980s, there was still Federal Library Services and Construction Act money available as seed money for public library construction, but a consultant was required to review the library service area prior to applying for such funds.
So, the library hired Donald C. Potter of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to perform our review and said that a branch library someplace could serve Steubenville and Wintersville and the general population area of the center of Jefferson County.
In a relatively brief time, things came together with LSCA Funding, capital project funding and the new state funding capped by the donation of property and services from John & Huberta Schiappa Siciliano for a 4-acre site on Mall Drive for a library, possible because the zoning on that property would allow a public library.
Several library board members were critical in the process, and on Groundhog Day 1987, the Schiappa branch library opened to the public, with the second phase completed in 1992.
It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since the Schiappa branch library opened.
Our project has been copied by two library systems in Ohio. The Chillicothe-Ross County Public Library supplemented its Carnegie Library with a North Branch, and the Guernsey County Public Library in Cambridge supplemented its Carnegie Library with the Crossroads Branch on the east side.
My hometown library, the Washington County Public Library in Marietta, opened its Lafayette Branch near the I-77 interchange, which supplements the Carnegie Library in a different way from our buildings.
They also copied our current Bookmobile after riding along as we did our service, something I consider flattery in any way.
Today, all of our branch libraries work together in providing library service to Jefferson County, and they are linked to 92 other Ohio library systems to share and provide information and materials to Ohio’s citizens.
(Hall is the assistant director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)